Talking Comics with Tim | Christopher Yost
Disney XD’s The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes is the kind of show that connects with classic Avengers fans like myself, as well as children seeing the team for the first time. So I considered myself fortunate to catch up with the show’s story editor, Christopher Yost, to discuss the show recently. This Sunday, January 9 at 10 AM EST, in a new episode, The Man Who Stole Tomorrow, Kang the Conqueror, the undisputed ruler of Earth in the 40th Century, and the Avengers cross paths in the 21st century. In addition to discussing the show, Yost entertained a few questions about the four-issue The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes miniseries, which Marvel launched in November. Marvel has been kind enough to provide an episode guide, as well as video teasers at The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes! hub page.
Tim O’Shea: On a most basic level, what all do you get to do as story editor for The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes show?
Christopher Yost: I’m in charge of the writing, from top to bottom. A few years ago now, Supervising Producer Josh Fine came to me with Marvel’s desire to do an Avengers animated series, and I put forward two concepts for the show, general frameworks for which the series exists in. We ended up using both, more or less.
I plan out the overall season arcs with Josh, I write episodes (usually the kick-offs and the finales) and hire the incredibly talented writers that freelance for the show. I make sure the stories all flow, and the characters all sound like they should.
Within the production, I try to work within the budget and schedule, ie limit the number of characters, the number of new locations, props, etc. I often fail at this part of the job… Avengers is a BIG show.
O’Shea: In a recent Marvel.com piece, you said: “Clint Barton for me is the one guy that if he’s not there, it’s not really the Avengers.” Can you talk a little bit more about why you feel that way about Hawkeye–and how you have been able to convey that sentiment in your use of the character in the show?
Yost: Well, you generally need one of the big three as well, but honestly… In my mind, Hawkeye’s the fourth of the big three. To me, if the team is Black Knight, Sersi, Doctor Druid, Photon and Namor, I’m skeptical – and obviously I love those characters, I mean two of my top five are in there. But you could just as easily call them the Defenders or something. But throw Hawkeye in that mix, and it’s the Avengers again.
He’s the guy you or I could be, if we worked hard enough. Iron Man is similar, but his armor is one step past reality. Not Hawkeye. He’s got the attitude…. he’s a normal guy, standing shoulder to shoulder with the gods, and he’ll get right in their faces. He’s the Han Solo of the team.
O’Shea: Again, Marvel.com in that post, got you to rank your top five Avengers, call me greedy, but can you tell me who you would rank 6-10 (to make your top 10)?
Yost: Ms. Marvel. Hercules. Black Panther. Wonder Man/Beast (combo!). Vision.
O’Shea: I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly you introduced Captain Mar-Vell to the series. But it looks like this Captain is not going to be the blond-haired variety that long-time fans know. Can you talk abut the approach to the character for the series?
Yost: Honestly, Captain Marvel was kind of after my time. I never had any real great love for him, but I did like his red and blue costume. Plus, I’m a Mark Gruenwald Quasar guy. But I did love the Ultimate Secret version of the Captain Marvel character, that Warren Ellis and Steve McNiven did. Which we pretty wholly lifted for the show. He felt alien, he felt military, and he felt cool. Not a super hero, but an alien warrior/scientist, here to examine us more than anything… and then fell in love, something unheard of in the militaristic, science fascism of the Kree Empire.
Aliens that look exactly like humans are a bit boring/improbable, no offense to anyone. Plus, we’ve got a few blue-eyed blondes going as it is. So there were all kinds of factors going into ‘blue guy’ Mar-Vell.
O’Shea: How early in the development of the series did you decide you wanted to incorporate Carol Danvers?
Yost: Day one. But we wanted to take our time with her and do it right, because this in many ways will be her introduction to a huge new audience. And we want that audience to love her like we do.
O’Shea: Developing a new series, you get to use characters and situations in a far different way than Stan, Jack and the gang did. How enjoyable is it to get to use Nick Fury and the whole SHIELD dynamics in the Avengers?
Yost: It’s pretty great, to be honest. I’ve said many a day that I think of this as a Marvel Universe show, with the Avengers as our guides. So bringing in Nick and SHIELD was high on the list. Everyone in the production has such a great love of them, too… [supervising director] Ciro Nieli and his team really went back to the comics that made all this great and tried to bring it all to life.
O’Shea: Can you single out particular character moments or scenes from season 1 that you were really pleased to see how they turned out, in terms of execution?
Yost: You’re about to see my hands down favorite in the second half of season one. Gamma World exceeded everything I expected, too. I’m seriously like a kid on Christmas morning every time an episode comes in. I really haven’t been let down yet, and don’t expect to be. I’ve been watching season 2 stuff now, and it’s just as strong.
O’Shea: You have developed a strong following for your animation writing thanks to your work on series such as X-Men: Evolution. How satisfying has it been for you to do the effective world-building/restructuring that you’ve achieved with both series?
Yost: It’s insane beyond belief, I’m so grateful to be able to work on these shows, with this world and these characters. The Marvel Universe is a great place to work.
O’Shea: The comic book industry is always trying to figure out new ways to get more kids to read comics, how much do you think series like yours is effective in getting kids interested in comics?
Yost: I love comics so much, I honestly try to put the love of them into every show I work on, hoping that kids will see these characters, these stories, and look to their parents and say ‘I want more.’ If I could put a ‘GI Joe’ esque ad in the last 30 seconds of each episode, with an Avenger pushing comic books, I would. Because knowing about comic books is half the battle! Kids won’t know unless someone shows them.
O’Shea: In addition to getting to bring the comic book characters to life with the TV series, you are also writing an Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes comic book miniseries, where you get to use characters that have yet to appear in the show. Can you talk about what you wanted to achieve with the comic (as opposed to your goals with the TV series)?
Yost: Marvel publishing came to me with it, they’re really pulling out all the stops in supporting the show. So that when kids DO ask for more, and convince their parents to take them to the comic store, there’s something there they can buy that IS the show.
I really wanted to flesh out the world of the series, do some of the things we couldn’t do in the show for this reason or that, and just to have fun. We’ll have Batroc’s Brigade, Super-Adaptoid, Mad Thinker, the Winter Guard, Elders of the Universe… we just go for it. This is the Marvel Universe, and it’s full of amazingness. And working with Scott Wegener and Patrick Scherberger has been a blast and a half.
O’Shea: Anything you’d like to discuss that I neglected to ask you about?
Yost: The response from comic fans has been amazing, I’m really grateful to everyone watching… but even more, hearing about comic fans sitting down with THEIR kids, and introducing their children to the Avengers… that’s just the best.
And on Sunday, January 9th, our biggest story on the show yet begins as Kang the Conqueror arrives in the 21st century. The Man Who Stole Tomorrow begins the Kang Saga for The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes on Disney XD, Sunday mornings!!